January 27, 2010

When January 1st rolled around, I decided I would join the Daring Bakers for 2010. The monthly recipe challenges seemed like a great idea. I’d get to try new recipes. Writing about the challenges would help feed the hungry blog monster. And I love the idea of cooking essentially the same thing at the sametime as a whole bunch of other cooks all around the world, and then seeing how each cook works their own personal magic.

Well, the first challenge for Daring Bakers nearly did me in. Nanaimo Bars.
The January Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten Free Graham wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources on which she based her recipe are found here.

Graham Wafers — 101 Cookbooks — which Lauren adapted to be gluten free.
The adapted recipe is at Nanaimo Bars – City of Nanaimo.

To be frank, there was little that appealed to me about these layered bars. The bottom layer was essentially graham cracker crumb. And I had to make the graham crackers. Gluten free, too!

Here’s something I haven’t shared with many people. Graham crackers give me the WORST stomach aches. So, I never ever make anything with a graham cracker. I always substitute amaretto cookies. Or ginger snaps. But that Gluten Free twist? This challenge might clear up the graham question that has plagued me since I was a child.

So, I spent some time reading about celiac disease and gluten free cooking on Lauren’s excellent blog, and decided to roll up my sleeves.

Off I went to the Thai grocer for glutinous rice flour and tapioca flour. Then to the Co-op for Sorgham flour. The rest of the ingredients I had in the pantry.

I intended to make half a recipe of the graham crackers. While the instructions said the graham crackers would last for two weeks, I wasn’t that into the whole idea. (Seriously bad tummy problems.)

But the danged computer still doesn’t work in the kitchen, so I was running back and forth to the front of the house, where the network connection is strong, reading instructions and back to the kitchen to cook. Really, it was just comical. Needless to say, I managed to get confused and added full amounts of half the ingredients, so I remedied the situation, finished the dough, and had a full recipe.

This would turn out to be a good thing.

I chilled the dough which was VERY soft, cut out the crackers and chilled them again, then made those cute little poked holes all over the cracker so it would look like the pictures. Into the oven – 12 minutes later this is what I had.


I shortened the time to ten minutes for the next two trays. Not much better. I stacked them up cleverly and took a photo. Then I threw them all into the food processor and blasted it into crumbs.

I have to admit. Those crumbs smelled divine. Brown sugary. Buttery.

The next day, I finished off the challenge. The original recipe called for a custard layer made with something called custard powder. I had no idea where to find that, so I considered a very stiff creme anglaise. Of course, this was two days before the posting date… of course I should have started this weeks ago, but I’ve always been a procrastinator.

Then I remembered my lemon curd stash. The freezer has four containers of Meyer lemon curd from one of the times I was unable to walk away from Meyer lemons.

Now, we’re talking.

My little mind started whirring. Thinking of one of my favorite holiday cookies, I mentally combined pistachio, lemon, ginger and chocolate, and put a Mrs. Wheelbarrow spin on the Nanaimo bar.

Line a 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper.

For the base layer:
1-1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c chopped roasted, salted pistachio nuts (not red)
1/2 c crystallized ginger

Stir ingredients together and press firmly into the bottom of the baking pan.
Chill for 1 hour.

For the middle layer
1 c Meyer lemon curd (here’s a link to Alton Brown’s curd recipe)

Spread across the top of the base layer and chill for an hour.

For the top layer

Melt together 4 oz semi sweet chocolate & 2 oz unsalted butter. Stir well and cool for a few minutes so it’s not too hot when you pour it on top of the lemon curd.

Now, chill this for at least 8 hours, overnight, if possible. Lift it out by the paper edges and

Cut with a knife that you clean after every cut.

These are sweet, gingery and tart with fresh lemon – really delicious. Cutting them was a challenge. Here’s the prettiest plate I could manage. I needed one more day to chill them more, and the photo would do them justice.

Thank you to the Daring Bakers for opening my eyes to gluten free ingredients and to Lauren to introducing me to this tasty Nanaimo bar. And no tummy problems at all. I’m sold.

2 Responses to “How Daring Am I? Nanaimo Bars”

  1. Winnie

    Brilliant lemon curd Nanaimo bars Cathy! Welcome to the Daring Bakers. It's a fun group. I've enjoyed some challenges more than others, though I do always learn something…
    I made a bunch of Meyer lemon cream for a tart earlier this week- was so good- so I bet your bars are great. Hope all your computer troubles are sorted out soon.

  2. Laura

    Wow! Just brilliant combining those flavors. Love it. I have some meyer lemon and have been torn as to what to do with them.


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